Three men were injured in waters off the southern coast of South Africa when a breaching whale leaped out of the sea and crashed onto their inflatable boat, the National Sea Rescue Institute, or NSRI, said Tuesday.

Albertus Myburgh, 41, Wouter van Heerden, 25, and Rodney van der Mecht, 35, swam back to the boat and were able to notify its owner, since one of their cell phones was still working, NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon said.

"The three men had no idea what kind of whale it was, they just knew it was big," Lambinon said.

A pod of humpback whales had recently been spotted in the area, mammals that can be as long as 16 meters (52 feet) and which tend to weigh around 36 tons, Lambinon said.

The incident occurred Monday night so that finding the three men and their boat in the dark was difficult, but "finally, with the aid of a flare, the three men were found hanging onto the boat at 1 nautical mile off the South African coast," the NSRI spokesman said.

Myburgh had several broken ribs, and injuries to one leg and an arm, for which he was taken to a medical center in serious but stable condition.

Van Heerden injured an arm and Van der Mecht escaped with slight injuries. EFE